In the not-too-distant future, polyolefins producers could face shortages and/or price increases in propylene due to several current trends in petroleum refining and petrochemical production. The light hydrocarbon gases produced in association with unconventional gas from shale formations are a new source of low-cost feedstock to olefins plants. This is making it economical to crack light gases in favor of naphtha to produce olefins — primarily ethylene. There is also a decrease in the demand for naphtha-based fuels which will likely result in a reduced use of fluidized catalytic cracking units. Both of these factors should result in lower production levels of propylene. If this occurs, it will be important for polyolefins producers to maximize the yield of salable, high-value polyolefin resins by reducing the amount of off-spec polymer produced.



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